Xena Warrior Princess Episode Reviews
Reviewed by SLK
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by:
Steven L. Sears
Directed by: Bruce Seth Green
DISCLAIMER: No disclaimer
STORY SO FAR: Gabrielle is kidnapped by an other worldly cult which tries to make her commit her first killing, while Xena, in a dream state, must battle her internal demons to save her.
REWIND FOR: That famous NZ mud in the opening scene, crawling its way up Gabrielle’s skirt – no wonder she turned to miniskirts. That’s probably also a reason Xena wears those long sexy boots… well, okay, another one.
Gabrielle makes her first attempt at a Xena warcry, just after she picks up the sword in the first fight, and it aint half bad
A continuity muckup for a storekeeper – he talks to Xena outside his shop with a huge mound of grain on his tray, and when he enters the shop the tray has doubled in size while the grain has halved
They also need a good carpenter in this village – when all the folks run inside and "slam" their doors, not a single door closes properly against the frame.
The breast dagger scene – come on, that’s a Xena classic.
The blind ex-mystic changing his time estimation for Xena storming the castle from months to days as he feels up her biceps.
Discovering Gabrielle had six toes on her right foot and Xena just has to have a look at them – the funniest moment is Gabs adjusting her skirt prudishly and declaring "well don’t look!".
"If you can run, run. If you can’t run, surrender, then run. If you’re outnumbered, let them fight each other while you run…" Rules to live by for even the slowest sidekick to grasp a certain theme.
"The moment you pick up a sword you become a target. The moment you kill everything changes." Famous first words from Xena. You just know these are coming back to haunt us later, right?
"Take my word for it, I’m not the wifey type. I sleep late. I don’t know a lick about housework. And look at these hips. No way." Gabrielle explains her small problem with commitment.
Xena: What’s the matter with you? You just seem… bigger.
Xena: I’ll keep this for the time being.
You’ve got to love an episode that brings together all the elements that makes a show great – Gabrielle/Xena banter, offbeat humour, evil Xena, a bit of philosophy, breast daggers... Did someone say breast daggers? Now there’s a hitherto untapped armament in any superhero’s wardrobe. Trust Xena to come up with every leatherclad warrior girl’s must-have summer accessory for 4BC.
It also highlights the sly wit of the show and why it worked so well when similar eye-candy efforts just don’t get the home run. I love that they point out Xena’s breasts aren’t dangerous enough, to share the joke with the viewer that the lead character’s busty look was designed primarily for, well, looking, instead of pretending that, say, Sheena or Wonder Woman-style, it’s not utterly impractical to have that outfit on for the job you’re doing.
But self mockery and audience nudge-nudge, wink-winks are only half the fun in Dreamworker. Renee O’Connor is in impressive comedic form this episode, from the asides she gives Xena to her bumbling efforts at being the warrior woman she wishes she was. Seeing her thrust out her, ahem, "motives", at Xena when she has a breast dagger in her bodice, and the rather taken aback look on the Warrior Princess’s face is hilarious. The scene says metaphorically and literally – Gabrielle is a child (emphasised by the fact a ‘breast’ dagger is a bad fit and drops to the ground) playing with grown-up things she is not yet ready for.
Which brings us to the theme of the episode – we must be who we really are.
Gabrielle, at this point, clearly is no warrior. She’s a story teller, and it is this skill, not her swordplay, which saves her life. She learns the lesson painlessly and simply. The obvious moral for younger viewers is all a little too "just-say-no" for me but it gets the point across about kids not making themselves a target with weapons.
Xena, meanwhile, is a warrior, but with a dark past she hasn’t squared the ledger with. This episode shows her finally understanding she can’t repress what she was, for indeed the skills and abilities and leadership qualities she has to this day, stem from the dark powerful woman she once was. Nor can she embrace what she was either.
To sidetrack for a moment: we get the first proper look at bad Xena this episode – complete with spooky black eyes. Frankly, she’s scarier with blue eyes, doing evil deeds while looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Interestingly Lucy made her bad Xena here seductive and powerful and not fiercely tough and cruel as she becomes for later flashbacks. Makes sense though, given how recently, at the time, she’d played a seductress Xena in Hercules.
But I digress. This ep was about Xena finding a way to live with her dark side, instead of pretending it simply no longer exists. The stone analogy beneath the surface of water at the end is excellent writing, summing up who Xena is today: A woman with a burden she can’t shift but one that, no matter how calm she may now look or the good she now does, will always be there. Inside. Unmoving.
What was utterly charming about this "stone in the water" scene was what followed – Xena’s banter with Gabrielle. The redhead compliments Xena on her thoughtful attempt at philosophy and Xena, slightly embarrassed and a little thrown, denies it had any resonance for her and "I was just saying that for your benefit, didn’t think I meant it did you?" It was so male, so about denying she has a soft side, I laughed aloud.
This is the first of many times we see Gabrielle can get under Xena’s skin, under her defences, and get her embarrassed, flustered almost, by complimenting her. In later episodes, Xena doesn’t mind being the wise woman and doesn’t ever react this way again to having and sharing knowledge about herself. But she does always continue to react the same way any time Gabrielle picks up on Xena possibly feeling "mushy" towards her. And it’s these moments you are reminded of the unique relationship the two have, because you just know Xena would never bring herself to share like this or let her guard down with anyone else. It’s really a sweet moment.
The creepiest part of Dreamworker was the blind ex-mystic telling Xena he would protect her body but "don’t worry, I’m a gentleman". Well NOW we’re worried – thanks for putting that idea in our heads. It was right up there was the almost paedophile-ring subtext going on all episode long, when they are describing Morpheus’s secret society as a "perverted cult" and the way the shopkeeper’s eyes "lit up", to quote Xena, and he almost licked his lips when he saw young innocent little Gabrielle wander into town.
Ewww-attacks aside, the episode did have a nice sense of grounding thanks to some good guest actors, especially Morpheus’s head mystic, Manus, who people may recognise from Matrix Revolutions, providing gravitas and a Richard Attenborough-like ongoing commentary at the end of Gabrielle’s challenges. "Clever girl", he declares appreciatively on more than one occasion…I kept half expecting him to comment on her plumage and breeding rituals too. Ah, but wait, the bard already did that for him. Yep, we discover she’s not much the "wifey type" and adds "look at these hipbones". Too funny.
And here we also see Gabrielle has commenced her long, long journey down the road of unsuitable and/or dead beaus. Good luck, girlfriend. Hint: the cute ones all die young.
In sum: this was a pacey episode, vintage Xena, with a great mix of humour and drama, from revelations Gabrielle once had six toes on one foot (in a seriously funny scene between her and Xena) to putting the bard through her paces in a bid to find novel ways to avoid turning to violence first. Xena meanwhile battled her emotional demons, literally, and came away mentally stronger. And the two gals bonded some more, while we’re all left to go awww and contemplate in colourful detail – whatever happened to that breast dagger?….